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Marcellus still contentious, and new engines demand less fuel

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Marcellus Protest
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via Flickr
Then-Governor Ed Rendell at a fracking protest in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection employees testifying in a lawsuit have provided more ammunition to residents and environmental advocates arguing that state oversight is too lax.

Depositions in a suit over a well permit granted near the Delaware River that were obtained by the Associated Press revealed:

Pennsylvania environmental regulators say they spend as little as 35 minutes reviewing each of the thousands of applications for natural gas well permits that they get each year from drillers intent on tapping the state’s lucrative and vast Marcellus Shale reserves. They also say they do not give any additional scrutiny to requests to drill near high-quality streams and rivers even though the waterways are protected by state and federal law.

Former DEP Secretary John Hanger (who keeps a very readable blog) declined to give his opinion on the permit-review process.

In New York State, when we spoke with former DEC secretary Pete Grannis earlier this year about the agency's staffing levels, he said he did not foresee permits being rushed through the review process.

"I don't see the department backing off on its responsibilities. The real effect will be on how much work that can actually get done," Grannis noted.

Cornell's 'fracking' study

The Motley Fool zeroes in on the Cornell study of natural gas drilling - currently under peer review - which says the process releases more total emissions than coal. Their article got in a local angle, that both professors are actively involved in conversations around drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The group zeroed in on shale gas for specific reasons, according to research team member Tony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering: "We are highlighting unconventional gas because it is a contemporary problem for us in upstate New York, and because there is a big difference between developing gas from an unconventional well and a conventional well, for the mere reason that unconventional wells are bigger."

Here's Professor Bob Howarth, the study's lead author, speaking at a rally outside the EPA's hearings last summer in Binghamton.

Making sustainable engines

If you didn't catch Zack Seward's update earlier this week, General Motors is making a big investment in its Rochester manufacturing plant.

The auto giant is spending $100 million on its production line for fuel-efficient engine parts.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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